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[im-prop-er] /ɪmˈprɒp ər/
not proper; not strictly belonging, applicable, correct, etc.; erroneous:
He drew improper conclusions from the scant evidence.
not in accordance with propriety of behavior, manners, etc.:
improper conduct at a funeral.
unsuitable or inappropriate, as for the purpose or occasion:
improper attire for a formal dance.
abnormal or irregular:
improper functioning of the speech mechanism.
Origin of improper
From the Latin word improprius, dating back to 1535-45. See im-2, proper
Related forms
improperly, adverb
improperness, noun
1–3. inapplicable, unsuited, unfit. 2. indecorous. Improper, indecent, unbecoming, unseemly are applied to that which is unfitting or not in accordance with propriety. Improper has a wide range, being applied to whatever is not suitable or fitting, and often specifically to what does not conform to the standards of conventional morality: improper diet; improper behavior in church; improper language. Indecent, a strong word, is applied to what is offensively contrary to standards of propriety and especially of modesty: indecent behavior, literature. Unbecoming is applied to what is especially unfitting in the person concerned: conduct unbecoming a minister. Unseemly is applied to whatever is unfitting or improper under the circumstances: unseemly mirth.
1, 3. fitting, suitable. 2. proper. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for improperly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "By their improperly intelligent expression," returned Phil.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • The first of these words is often improperly used for the second.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • That is all-powerful, but I will not employ it unseasonably or improperly.

    Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon
  • There is likewise a small-sized partridge, which is improperly called the quail.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • I think Renée behaved most improperly this evening; that's all.

    Rene Mauperin

    Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt
British Dictionary definitions for improperly


lacking propriety; not seemly or fitting
unsuitable for a certain use or occasion; inappropriate: an improper use for a tool
irregular or abnormal
Derived Forms
improperly, adverb
improperness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for improperly



mid-15c., "not true," from French impropre (14c.), from Latin improprius, from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + proprius (see proper). Meaning "not suited, unfit" is from 1560s; that of "not in accordance with good manners, modesty, decency" is from 1739. Related: Improperly (late 14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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